Pedestrian Accidents and the Right of Way

February 16, 2012, by Price Benowitz LLP

One of the most misunderstood concepts of law is the right of way granted to pedestrians. It's not something we learn as kids, but our parents do give us the basic about crossing streets and things of that nature. When I first learned to drive, my entire graduating class was in Driver's Education Class during the first semester of our junior year. Some of us took the class very seriously. Others could care less about the rules and were more concerned about how long it would take to pass the test and start driving. I remember the last day of class after we each passed and got a learner's permit, the teacher said, "remember to yield to the right of way and be safe". That stuck with me. I felt I had to be responsible.

I have always been a cautious and careful driver, but I was never quite clear on which variation of yield to the right of way for pedestrians I should follow. I was always conservative and stopped whenever possible. As I got into driving and read up on the actual law about the pedestrian's right of way, I was amazed. Clearly there are crosswalks and stops signs where pedestrians are expected to cross. In situations where there is a crosswalk or other traffic control device, there is an absolute obligation to yield to the pedestrians that are safely crossing the street.

With all that being said, we live in a society where people are consumed with personal convenience and a sense of entitlement. Many people walk around texting, listening to music, and not paying attention to the things going on around them. Although they are not operating 2000 pound machines, they are interacting with them (and often in a scary and dangerous way). Pedestrians tend to forget that they are also obligated to follow the rules of the road.

As I walk around the Nation's Capitol, I see so many people crossing against the direction of the light. I see people darting out from in between parked cars because they didn't want to walk ten feet to the corner and the crosswalk. These very same people also believe that they have the absolute right of way. By absolute right of way, these pedestrians believe that should a car hit them because the car could not stop on a dime, the driver will be liable for their damages.

Realistically, both drivers and pedestrians have to share the road. In order to do this properly everyone has to follow the rules of the road. Pedestrians do have the right of way when traffic control devices indicate that they can cross. Drivers need to pay attention to these signs and obey them as they travel. If everyone would pay attention and follow one simple rule, there would be a few less traffic accidents and fewer injured people. If you are looking for more information about traffic incidents in Virginia, please visit the following page.